Q&A: Shib Sibs set for triumphant return home
The last two months have been a blur for Alex and Maia Shibtauni, the so-called “Shib Sibs” who captured two bronze medals at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.
There have been trips from coast to coast, and many places in-between, to accept awards, to participate in media commitments, to check out the Oscars and the after-parties, and, of course, to skate — yes, they’re still skating, even if it’s just for fun, as they have decided to skip the 2018-19 figure-skating season.
On Saturday, Alex, 27, and Maia, 23, return home, to Detroit, to participate in “Stars on Ice” at 7:30 p.m. at Little Caesars Arena. It’s the 11th stop on the 22-city tour that also includes a swing through Grand Rapids, at Van Andel Arena, on May 4.
Among the other skaters set to participate are Lansing native Madison Hubbell, Royal Oak natives Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and national darling Adam Rippon, who’s maintaining his tour schedule despite his role on this season of “Dancing with the Stars.”
The Shibutani siblings, who’ve lived and trained in Ann Arbor since 2007, recently spoke to The News about their experience in South Korea, their relationship, and who’s watching their medals, among other topics. Here are the highlights of the conversation.
News: In your second Winter Games, you took two bronze medals in the Olympics, one for the team event and one in ice dancing. Did you surpass your expectations?
Alex: It is an interesting question. We definitely met our expectations. Our experience surpassed what we could’ve expected from the outset. We skated as well as we possibly could every time we went out, and at the end of the day, that’s what we could control. Some of the experiences we had, knowing we’ve skated together for 14 years, it was really special to experience that. The emotion was obviously there.
Maia: It was our second Olympics. We set different expectations. In 2014, we really just enjoyed the experience.
News: For whatever reason, the United States figure-skating team became a focal point for viewers back in the States. Maybe it was the big personalities (Rippon, Nathan Chen, you guys). Did you realize you were taking the nation by storm?
Maia: When we were over there, we were pretty insulated. We were focused on competing, we had an event in both weeks and were very much so focused on doing our job. But we’ve felt the support since we returned. We’ve noticed wherever we’ve been, we’ve received such a warm welcome. That’s been very special. It’s not just our skating that was appreciated.
News: You’re coming home to Detroit. How exciting is that, and have you been inundated with ticket requests?
Alex: It hasn’t been an issue yet. Maybe this article will add to the requests (laughs). Detroit’s been our home, Ann Arbor’s been our home, for the past 11 years. Definitely to be able to come back to the area and skate for people who supported us is gonna be very special. We’re looking forward to it.
News: Surely, you get asked this a lot. I have siblings. We don’t always get along, and we’re not around each other nearly as much as you two are. Do you ever get on each other’s nerves?
Alex: Yes (laughs), yes, the easy answer is yes. We work together, we’re a really good team professionally, on the ice. We’re unlike most siblings, in that we haven’t spent more than two or three days apart over the course of 10 years. It is a very unique relationship we have, but we don’t live together. I mean, we’ve been living together on tour, but training for the Olympics, we have separate spaces, and that’s important. But we’re lucky and fortunate in that we have a really good relationship. We upload videos to our YouTube channel, we recently uploaded an old home video, and even back then, we got along so well. With Easter a few weeks ago, there was a video when she was 2 and I was 5, and even back then we’re working together to collect Easter eggs. It’s really funny.
Maia: It’s very unique and special, the relationship we have. It’s been awesome to be able to experience this journey together. And for the most part, we enjoy each other’s company.
News: What’s in story for the fans at “Stars on Ice,” if you can share.
Alex: The show has been going really well. Maia and I have two programs, sort of fan favorites from the past four years — one is a Frank Sinatra “That’s Life” remixed with Jay-Z that went viral a couple years ago. We have another program that is sort of a combination of two of our recent programs, Coldplay. Coming off the Games and having that familiarty with the program, and fans being able to recognize what they saw on TV, it’s gonna be exciting.
News: Gotta ask, where are the medals? Are they traveling with you?
Alex: (Laughs) They are not on the road with us. We’ve been traveling around with them a lot recently, and they’re important to take with us. The Olympic medal is very inspiring to young kids, and we did that. It was just amazing to wake up every morning and see other and see the medals. But they’re not with us now. They’re with our parents. At least, I hope they’re with our parents.
News: Ha. Maybe you should be FaceTiming with them every now and then just to check in.
Maia: Maybe now we will after this call. We weren’t really thinking about that!
Alex: They’re in good hands. I don’t think they’re walking around wearing them or playing catch with them.
Stars on Ice
When: 7:30 Saturday
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Tickets: $12 to $170, available at Ticketmaster.com
Who: Among the stars performing will be the Shib Sibs, Alex and Maia Shibutani, as well as fellow Olympic heroes including Adam Rippon and Nathan Chen.